Resist regulatory Stockholm Syndrome

By Jami Jones, managing editor

The legal system in the U.S. is built on one fundamental truth: innocent until proven guilty.

FMCSA’s regulatory enforcement system abandons this premise on the ground floor of the Compliance, Safety, Accountability program, and in its handling of crash data.

Within the CSA system, violations handed out during roadside inspections are a done deal. If a driver or motor carrier doesn’t want to accept the roadside verdict, the driver or motor carrier must challenge the violation and prove they are innocent.

Without getting into jurisprudence and dissecting the requirements of the government, the CSA system as it stands – the one that was hatched to eliminate unsafe drivers and motor carriers – is harmful. It damages the reputation and livelihood of even the safest drivers and motor carriers alike.

The same sort of scheme exists within the newly proposed crash preventability demonstration program. You can read details on Page 22 of this issue. The crash is presumed to be the fault of the driver or motor carrier until they go through the hoops and hurdles of proving the crash was not preventable.

Have truck drivers and motor carriers been captives of the regulators’ backward logic for so long that excitement over “something” going in the right direction will wash over, making everyone ignore the glaring shortcoming?

You may have heard the term “Stockholm Syndrome” – a psychological condition in which hostages bond or express empathy with their captors.

The hostage industry would be well-served to measure any overly “Stockholmish” gratitude toward the program now being proposed by the captor/regulators. It’s still a system that punishes first and asks questions later.

It might be wishful thinking to hope that regulators are going to wake up in the middle of the process of developing the new demonstration program, see the light, and reverse their “guilty until innocent” approach. But in all truth, that is what needs to happen.